Feeding Our Souls: Memories and Mayo

By Jean Blish Siers *

tomatoesA new gleaner joined our ranks this year, a delightful senior citizen named Gloria who heard about us from a friend and came to a strawberry gleaning early in the season. She’s been out almost once a week since, driving to far-flung fields in places she’s never been before.

On Saturday we were in Rowan County, about an hour north of Charlotte, where both Gloria and I live. She got lost several times on the way – there were ramp closures on the interstate and roads closed for construction once she got off the freeway. After calling three times for directions, I expected her to tell me that she was giving up and going home. But Gloria persevered and arrived a half hour late, determined to glean.

“I almost didn’t come this morning,” she told me, changing from her perky driving shoes to her muddy boots. “I was tired. But then I remembered this woman who I took tomatoes to the last time and I got out of bed and came.” We had gleaned tomatoes the week before, at a different farm, and Gloria had put a few boxes in her car for her church’s food pantry. “There is a lady in our church and she has Alzheimer’s,” she told me. “So I kept a tomato and took it home, cut it up, and brought her a good tomato sandwich with some mayonnaise. When she bit into that real tomato, it was like she came back to life! That’s why I got out of bed.”

tomato sandwichExperts on dementia and Alzheimer’s suggest that stimulating the senses is good for those suffering with the disease. The sense of taste, like smell or touch, can trigger memories that lie buried deep inside our brains. Picture that woman taking a bite of a real tomato sandwich, the fruit still warm from the field! It transported her, maybe only for a few minutes, to a joyous summer in her childhood. What a moment of peace!

We glean to nourish the body, of course, but also the spirit. We pray before a gleaning, asking that those who receive the food know that they are loved, not just by God but by people they’ve never met and probably never will. The food is a tangible sign of God’s love, and also our own love for the greater community.

Gloria has been a great addition to our gleaning community this summer. We enjoy her spirit and humor in the field. But I love knowing that her presence – one person, one box or bucket at a time – touches people all over area, bringing them not just a tomato sandwich but the knowledge that they are important and loved.

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s gleaning coordinator in Charlotte, North Carolina


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In the event I, or a registered family member, suffers any illness or accident requiring emergency hospitalization, medication, or other medical assistance while participating in a gleaning event, permission is given for any medical treatment which is deemed necessary and reasonable under the circumstances. I fully understand and comprehend that reasonable care will be exercised by the adult staff for this gleaning event to protect the safety of those involved. I understand that the field supervisor’s instructions must be followed at all times, and that I am responsible for any damages caused to fields, farms, or equipment by me/my family members not following these instructions.

Photos, videos, and other images in which I, or a registered family member, appear that are taken during gleanings may be used by the Society of St. Andrew for news coverage, newsletters, reports, displays, and for other print, broadcast, web, or electronic news or promotional purposes.

I do not hold the board, members, or employees of the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA,) or any volunteers liable for injury, bodily harm, accidents, or death of myself/my child during events sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew. Neither will I hold the person(s) who owns and/or operates the property from which we glean, salvage, or to which we deliver food, liable for accidents, injury, or death during the gleanings or other SoSA events.

For a PDF print version of this waiver, click here.

How the Story of the 12 Baskets is Connected to SoSA’s Name

Matthew 14:16-21

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

2 Kings 4:42-44

[…]the man of God […] said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

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